Saturday, January 12, 2013

Delving into Dinosaurs

I’d like to write a bit about preschool, since I realized I only have one blog entry about that! Last semester, we did a lot of themes based on the seasons and holidays: Back to School, Fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I have been doing one theme a month, and do crafts based on that theme and on the alphabet. If I continue to do preschool in the future, I might try to build it up to two themes a month, but I decided that for the first year, one theme a month was probably enough. I have one large bulletin board in the center of the classroom where I feature the crafts that we did for the theme, and I have two other bulletin boards where I post up other crafts. I have to be honest: the crafts currently decorating the two boards are from the letter E, and while they are very cute, we have now just finished the letter L. We made some snowmen on this our first week back, and I am planning on putting them up to freshen up the classroom for the new year.

Back, however, to what I wanted to say. I decided to try something a little different theme-wise and instead of doing Winter, which would be a natural theme to pick for January, I decided we would do Dinosaurs instead. I personally have had more fun with this theme than with any of our other themes so far! I will talk about what we did this week so you can get some idea of how we explore different themes.

First of all, some of the toys in the classroom change. I collected new books about dinosaurs for our library, and another teacher helped me put together a sensory tub with dinosaurs, fake grass, straw, rocks, and small stones which we have been calling dinosaur eggs or baby dinosaurs. We made a simple dinosaur craft for the bulletin board early in the week. I cut paper plates in half, and then attached two paper legs and a paper tail to one of the halves with staples. That made one dinosaur body, and I used the other half to make a second dinosaur body. I cut out circular dinosaur heads with mouths.

During our craft time, the children painted the dinosaur bodies and heads with watercolors. We attached the heads with a metal brad so that they could move. I set out all colors of watercolors, and it was fun to see the creative dinosaurs that emerged from some paint and paper plates. We had a few pink dinosaurs, some rainbow dinosaurs, and some blue and green dinosaurs, and a few with all the colors mixed together. After these dried, I put them up on the bulletin board.

We also made dinosaur fossils, which all the children really enjoyed. It is one of the crafts that I will definitely be doing again. All the children sat around our craft table, and helped me count out the ingredients: two cups of flour, one cup of salt, one cup of water, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and one tablespoon of canola oil, which I put in a bowl. Next, the children mixed the ingredients together. The dough then had to be kneaded for ten minutes, so I unleashed them on the classroom to play while I kneaded the dough. Some of the children stayed and watched, and were very curious about why I covered a space of the table with flour before I started kneading the dough!

After ten minutes (or maybe more like seven or eight), I divided the dough into twelve little pieces for each one of the children that were there, and called them all back. They got to play with the dough for as long as they wanted (or at least until lunch, and some of them did play that long), and then when they were done playing, they made the dough into a circle-like shape (we had many exciting interpretations of circles) and pressed a small plastic dinosaur toy into the dough. I had labeled a sheet of parchment paper with all their names, so I set their completed fossil by their name so I could keep track of them all. We did this project on a Thursday, and by Friday I could tell that they were still wet, so I decided to let them dry over the weekend.

I think they all relished it so much because it was a very hands-on activity, and one with which they had lot of creative freedom. Several of the children who were there are ones that I know are very engaged by sensory activities, and it was fun to just let them get their hands dirty for a while, without much of an agenda or plan. We also have not had playdough in the classroom for a while, and the dough had a similar consistency to playdough.

I’m not sure how long it will take for them to dry completely, but supposedly they should harden after a few days or so, and then I will send them home with the kids.

On Friday we were working on some alphabet activities, but the kids unwittingly integrated dinosaurs into our day. One of the teachers had found a large book of dinosaur facts that has a lot of illustrations and scientific pictures of dinosaurs. It is not a book I would leave in the library, as it seemed better suited to older kids, but the pictures are really cool, so we thought that I could show some of them in group time. I placed the book in the group time basket and figured I would pick out some pictures to show the next week. However, one of my older kids found the book, and a group of them gathered around him and began to pour over the pictures. I sat with them just to monitor their use of the book, and reading the book in a group of 3 and 4 year olds turned into a good lesson on taking turns and using our words when we want to look at a picture instead of just putting hands all over the book. It ended up being really, really fun! We all sat in a big group around the boy who had found the book, and he turned the pages for all of us. The kids asked me the names of dinosaurs they found interesting in the book, and I’m sure I looked super smart, because I could tell them the names of all of them. Of course, all I had to do was read the names that were in the book! It is so easy to look like a superstar in preschool!

We all found out many things that we did not know before about dinosaurs. I was never really into dinosaurs as a kid, so I have been learning right alongside them, and loving every minute of it! For example, I was completely unaware that there were dinosaurs that lived in the water. I guess I always pictured Tyrannosaurus Rexes and Brachiosauruses roaming the volcanoes and jungles, not dinosaurs that could swim and had flippers and necks as long as giraffes! The kids also did not know that dinosaurs lived in the water, so we were all very excited by the pictures of underwater dinosaurs!

Next week I am planning on incorporating more dinosaur activities into our group time. One of the other teachers very generously let me borrow a binder of hers in which she kept lots of dinosaur ideas after doing a theme on dinosaurs for summer school in the past, and the binder has a plethora of dinosaur songs and other activities to do during group time, as well as pictures to show the kids to help them learn about different kinds of dinosaurs, and what fossils are. We are going to do a little math concepts activity and make a chart of omnivores, herbivores, and carnivores (after we learn what those words mean!). I have chosen a dinosaur of the week that corresponds to our alphabet letter of the week as well, and we will be putting those dinosaurs on the chart.

Basically I have had the most fun yet with this theme, and it has motivated me to weave the theme through more aspects of our classroom than I have done in the past!

No comments:

Post a Comment